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So You Want to be a Foreign Correspondent
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Bill Hinchberger
While serving an extended stint as president of the São Paulo Foreign Correspondents Club back in the ´90s, I received a constant stream of budding international reporters looking for advice. That experience provided the spark for a couple of panels on living and working abroad at the ASJA conference a few months ago. (If you missed those sessions, Stephanie de Ruiter has a nice recap on profnetconnect.com.)
Back in São Paulo, if those budding correspondents seemed keen on stability, I would suggest that they apply for jobs at news agencies like Bloomberg or Reuters. To the more adventurous aspiring freelancers, I would toss a trio of questions:

  1. How are your language skills?
    It might be feasible to parachute in and hire an interpreter for a specific piece, but it is impossible to function as a beat reporter (your beat being the place where you live and work) if you are not fluent in the local language. Learn the language first.
  2. Do you know editors who will want dispatches from your chosen part of the world?
    As you ease into the network of foreign correspondents, many assignments will come via referrals from colleagues. As your byline becomes associated with a place, editors will contact you directly when they need coverage from there. But it can be rough at the beginning. The best way to kick start the process is to pack some assignments in your luggage when you head out.
  3. Are you willing and able to write about business and finance?
    You may dream of being the next Paul Theroux, but Martin Wolf might be a better role model if your goal is to get paid. You can still write art criticism on the side (a long-term gig with ARTnews magazine fell into my lap because I was a stringer for The Financial Times). But business news is the only thing constantly in demand.
We are talking about how to get started, but no self-respecting entrepreneur would put even one drop of sweat equity into a start-up without having a viable exit strategy. So even now as you think about heading abroad, check out former NPR correspondent Eric Weiner?s humorous but sobering top 10 list of what foreign correspondents can look forward to after they leave the game: http://bit.ly/19c7Muy.
News Media Interview Contact
Name: James Brannigan
Title: Executive Director
Group: ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors)
Dateline: New York, NY United States
Direct Phone: 212 997-0947
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